Ruth Simpson, Dr Jean Pierre Ndagijimana, Stuart Moir

Peace of Mind: Integrating mental health and psychosocial support in reconciliation and violence prevention programmes in Rwanda and Tajikistan

This research provides new evidence of the impact of mental health interventions in preventing conflict within communities and supporting efforts to promote peace and reconciliation.

It outlines the findings of in-depth assessments of two of International Alert’s peacebuilding projects, in Rwanda and Tajikistan. It found that mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS), when combined with improved economic security and access to justice, can break damaging cycles of violence.

The research is accompanied by first-hand accounts of the effect that conflict has had on people’s mental health and how MHPSS is being used to address this.

In Rwanda, the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi has left deep psychological wounds, including among younger generations. We have been running group therapy and dialogue sessions aimed at addressing trauma and strengthening community cohesion.

Our research found that the mental health support provided by these sessions significantly improved trust and solidarity between different groups of people affected by the genocide and allowed community members to reconcile and heal. For example, almost 90% of people who participated in these activities reported positive interactions with people from different backgrounds and over 95% of participants developed positive attitudes towards peaceful conflict resolution.

In Tajikistan, there are many gender gaps. Women often lack a voice in society and in their own homes, and family violence is common. We used mental health interventions together with practical livelihoods support to help families and communities tackle this issue.

During this period, reports of physical violence against women by their husbands and other family members reduced by a third (from 66% to 33%) among those involved in the project, and half of women participants overall and 90% of women with disabilities said they felt more supported by their family.

While the methods and objectives for an integrated MHPSS and peacebuilding approach should be based on a holistic understanding of the specific needs of the contexts and communities engaged, the paper identifies seven common elements for effective programmes.Read the researchWatch the stories

You can find out more about the research and hear from the those involved by watching this fascinating discussion held on World Mental Health Day.

Ruth Simpson, Dr Jean Pierre Ndagijimana, Stuart Moir
International Alert